Development of Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide Thin Film Transistors on a Softening Shape Memory Polymer for Implantable Neural Interfaces Devices




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The continuous improvement in electronic active devices has led to several innovations in semiconductor materials, novel deposition methods, and improved microfabrication techniques. In the same way, the implementation of thin-film technology has revolutionized the semiconductor industry. For instance, the field of flexible electronics has utilized novel thin-film electronics components for the fabrication flexible displays, radio frequency identification (RF-ID) tags, and solar cells. Moreover, flexible electronics have sparked a great interest in the field of bioelectronics, for the fabrication of high-spatial-resolution implantable devices for neural interfaces. This incorporation of thin-film technology can potentially enable stimulation and recording the nervous system activity by utilizing novel, minimally invasive, conformal devices. To achieve this, flexible electronics circuits must possess high performance, reliability, and stability, as well as be resilient to mechanical stress and human body conditions, are some of the requirements that flexible electronics must meet for the realization of these devices. Furthermore, the choice of substrates is also critical since it directly affects final properties of the active devices.

Substrates, which are mechanically and biologically compliant, are preferred. For this reason, novel, softening materials like thiol-ene polymers are considered in this research. This work centers on the development of Indium-Gallium-Zinc-Oxide (IGZO) thin-film transistors (TFT) using the thiol-ene softening polymer as substrate. Functional IGZO-TFTs were fabricated on top of 50 µm of a thiol-ene/acrylate shape memory polymer (SMP) and electrically characterized. Hafnium oxide (HfO₂) deposited at 100°C by atomic layer deposition was used as gate dielectric, and gold (Au) as contacts. The devices were exposed to oxygen, vacuum and forming gas (FG) environments at 250°C to analyze the effects of these atmospheres on the IGZO-TFTs. Improvement in the electrical performance was noticed after the exposure to FG with a significant change in mobility from 0.01 to 30 cm2 V-1s-1, and a reduction in the threshold voltage shift (∆Vₜₕ), which it is translated into an increase on stability. Vacuum and oxygen effects were, also analyzed and compared. Furthermore, a time-dependent dielectric breakdown (TDDB) analysis was performed to define the lifetime of the transistors, where a prediction of 10 years at an operational range below 5 V was obtained. Additionally, the TFTs were encapsulated with 5 µm of SMP and exposed to simulated in vivo conditions. Up to 104 bending cycles were performed to the IGZO-TFTs with a bending radius of 5 mm and then, soaked into PBS solution at 37°C for one week to determine the resilience and reliability of the devices. The encapsulated IGZO-TFTs survived to the PBS environment and demonstrated resilience to mechanical deformation with small changes in the electronic properties. The results provided in this research contribute to the development of complex circuitry based on thin-film devices using mechanically adaptive polymers as a flexible substrate and enable the production of multichannel implantable bioelectronics devices.



Indium gallium zinc oxide, Thin film transistors, Brain-computer interfaces


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